Thursday, June 30, 2005

Out-of-Work Mom Lost in the Forest

Dear Auntie,
I'm almost 50...single mom of three, divorced for 7 (was married for 18) , didn't work when I was married, but seriously don't know what I want to do when I grow up!!! I've tried advertising sales, multi-media marketing and non-profit/fundraising, and after working hard at each one, moving up the salary chain...I just got fired from my last job after 3 years by a witchy woman boss. I have no other income; I do have a college degree in PR but am just so disillusioned and depressed (now taking anti-depressants...don't tell Tom Cruise!!) I can't see the forest for the trees...would you please help me with a plan?

Wandering Soul

Dear Wandering,
Well that’s a downer. Auntie’s been scarfing chocolates ever since she opened your letter. But now that she’s fortified, perhaps she can help.

For starters, you are not almost 50, you are 40-something. That “almost 50” stuff is akin to looking at the half-empty glass. I don’t care if you’re going to be 50 tomorrow, right now you are 40-something. This is symbolic of the way you must change your thinking about other, more important, things. You must get that glass filled at least half-way.

You say you are taking anti-depressants. (Auntie doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Tom Cruise, unless he’s coming over to climb into her bed.) Are they helping? Have you noticed a change in your energy level? Your outlook? If not, and if it’s been more than several weeks, you might check back with your doctor. Certain anti-depressants work better for some people than others.

Now, you are 40-something, have 3 (presumably great) kids, a college degree, plenty of solid work experience, anti-depressants that work, and a half-full glass. What should you do?

Well, aside from all the normal stuff like filing for unemployment, asking everyone you know if they have any leads, scouring the Want Ads, talking to head-hunters, asking everyone you know again (things change), Auntie suggests you take one of those psychological tests that help determine your strongest career paths. If you’ve already done that, or didn’t like the results, Auntie encourages you to look outside your self-constructed box. Everyone has one. They’re made of all the things you’ve done, the decisions you’ve made, the people you know, etc. You’re going to have to go outside that box for your answers.

Think about the things you most like to do. Think about things you’ve never done but always thought you’d enjoy. Make a list of both. Combine the two lists and study your new master list. Think about each entry. Spend time with it. Do any ideas (no matter how wild) come to mind about ways to make money with that entry? If so, jot them down. Move on to the next item and so forth.

After you’ve gone through your list, take just the entries with ideas next to them and transfer them to a new list, along with their corresponding ideas. Now, study this list. Do one or two entries stand out as more feasible than the others? If so, you’re getting close to embarking on a new career, one of your own choosing, and most importantly, one in which you’ll be the boss. No more “witchy women bosses” for you!

Auntie’s philosophy is that if you’re already out of work, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying your own business. The Small Business Administration is very helpful, especially to minority business owners (as a woman you fall into that category). They might assist with funding. Maybe one of your friends would like to go into business with you. There’s no guarantee you’ll succeed, but there’s also no guarantee that you’ll fail. Who knows? You might be the next Mary Kay or Martha Stewart.

Finally, if you’re just not ready to take the plunge into a business of your own, stay outside that box Auntie mentioned and look around at completely different careers. Like clothes? With your PR and sales experience, you’d be a natural for retail management.

Like houses? How about a career in real estate? (Auntie’s heard it takes 3-6 months to make your first check, so don’t postpone your decision any longer than necessary.) You can concentrate on residential or commercial, whichever area most appeals to you.

Those are just some ideas to get you going. The important thing for you right now is to do something. Activity will not only help your depression, it will also move you that much closer to a rewarding, new career. (A few chocolates now and then wouldn’t hurt either. Just don’t overdo.)

Good luck, and keep in touch. Auntie would like to hear from you again.

Yours shrewdly,
Auntie Shrew


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